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Christy Petterson

Inspired by Craft Congress 2007

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Written on April 6, 2007 9:54 PM

You are part of something big!

I already knew this, of course, but a meeting I attended last weekend really solidified that for me. I had the honor of visiting Pittsburgh for the first ever Craft Congress. This event was organized and hosted by the ladies of Handmade Arcade and included craft market organizers and a few other key members of the indie craft community. Attendees came from all over the U.S., plus Toronto and Leeds, UK. I'd never been to Pittsburgh before and I was so excited to see where my family lived right before I was born. The city was really interesting architecturally.

My most favorite part of the whole weekend was meeting people face to face who I'd emailed with or seen online. The internet is an essential element to our community, but seeing people in real life makes it so much more...real! I had the pleasure of meeting Jenny Hart of Sublime Stitching, Amy Carlton and Cinnamon Cooper of the DIY Trunkshow, Marie Kare of The Sampler, Sherry Huss of Craft, Alison Gordon of Bazaar Bizarre and wonderland q, Deb Dormody of Craftland and if'n books, Betsy Greer of Craftivism and Matt Stinchcomb of Etsy (the only boy who attended!). I also got to hang out with some people I already know: the ladies of Crafty Bastards, Kim Dorn and Sara Dick and the fabulous Indie Craft Documentary duo Faythe Levine and Micaela O'Herlihy. Plus many, many more totaling about 50 people.

The weekend itself was a series of discussions facilitated by different crafters who volunteered to lead the talks and keep everyone within the allotted time constraints. Crafters, it appears, are chatty so time constraints were very important...who knew, right?! Over the weekend, we talked about the business ends of organizing, running and marketing a craft show as well as some bigger, broader, less nitty-gritty topics.

One of the themes that came out of the weekend is what we can accomplish when we really ban together as a community. Perhaps someday we can buy health insurance as a group making self-employment much more viable. Maybe we can have an influence on copyright law or create more buying power by making large purchases of things we all need. We might even be able to convince manufacturers to use more green practices because we will only purchase items made greenly. As the self-employed we could come up with a retirement plan for ourselves.

We also talked about crafting as a political act. Do you think crafting is political? I do! I'm making something with my hands, which in this mass produced world is contrary to the norm; I'm preserving the skills and heritage of a female legacy; and I'm sticking it to the man by making it instead of buying it. Sometimes I'm even recycling by reusing materials and by organizing my show, I'm encouraging others to craft.

A really special treat of the weekend was getting to see the first sneak peak of the Indie Craft Documentary, which now has an official title--Handmade Nation: The Rise of D.I.Y. Art, Craft & Design...You can see the sneak peak as well here. It is truly amazing to hear all these crafters talk about our community and to know that you are part of something really big.

In fact, in your own town or city or countryside, you might feel isolated and as though you are the only one making cool indie crafts, but because of this strong network which we've built--mostly via the internet--you can know like-minded people all over the country and even the world. And by feeling inspiration from this large community you can then turn around and become the forefront of the indie craft scene where you live. The broad craft community is empowering--not only do we create crafts, we also create leaders.

In fact, two years ago I was nobody. You know what I mean, very popular with my mom and my husband and my brother and my friends, but the only person living outside of Atlanta who'd ever heard of me was my sister in California! Today, if you flip through your spring 2007 issue of VenusZine, you'll see that I am one of Atlanta's DIY leaders. Wow, how do you go from nobody to leader in a mere two years?

It would not be possible without the communal, encouraging nature of our indie craft community. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule, but over all our community is truly a community. It isn't full of cut throat competition or waste-of-time drama. We share ideas and encouragement and this is a rarity in today's society. So here's my plea to you--let's nurture this community and really take good care. Together we can accomplish a lot. We can nurture entrepreneurialism, we can preserve our feminine heritage, we can make something new out of something old and we can wield great economic power and stick it to the man! So as you sit quietly at home all alone with your computer or sewing machine or sharpie or letterpress remember, you are a part of something big!

comment by disCARDS on June 5, 2007 9:00 PM:

This article made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside! I'm a Pittsburgher and a 2006 Handmade Arcade vendor so I was thrilled that Craft Congress convened in my very own city!